The Christmas-Style Smothered Breakfast Burrito is the essence of New Mexico cuisine. In general, the basic tortilla-wrapped burrito has been estimated to have existed for thousands of years among civilizations in Mesoamerica, though the modern burrito emerged from Mexico during the late 19th century. By the mid-20th century, burritos became popularized among small restaurants around the United States, each region tinkering with the ingredients and appearance. While the Beltline Bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan is credited for creating the “wet burrito” (a red enchilada sauce with melted cheese smothered on top) in 1966, the smothered breakfast burrito is said to have come from Tia Sophia’s, a small restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Not only did Tia Sophia’s introduce the idea of wrapping bacon and eggs to make a breakfast burrito in 1975, but they also had the idea of smothering their burritos with a sauce made from New Mexican Chile Peppers. Those chile peppers come in red or green, red being the ripe form. Given New Mexico’s state question (“Red or Green?”), residents have long taken sides on eating their breakfast burritos with smooth red chile or chunky green chile. Fortunately, Tia Sophia’s also came up with the solution to smother half of the burrito with red chile sauce and the other half with green chile sauce. It was this game-chasing compromise that a waitress at the restaurant called “Christmas style” during the 1980s, and that infamous moniker has stuck ever since. Because this dish is virtually exclusive to New Mexico, I’m always excited when I get the chance to eat it. Most local restaurants serving it now make it spicy, rich, and large enough to fill me up not only for breakfast but for the rest of the day. With the contrast of colors and a flavor to match its appearance, this unique burrito leaves me disappointed for the rest of the day because no other meal can top that experience.
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